The longtime chief of the Musqueam Indian Band will not seek another term in office, ending a 14-year reign as leader of the city's only First Nation with an active reserve.
Ernest Campbell withdrew his name two weeks ago from the ballot for chief and council that will go before more than 600 eligible Musqueam voters Dec. 3. The band has a total population of about 1,300 members.
The Courier left several messages for Campbell Monday at the band office, his home and on his cellphone but none was returned before deadline.
The chief's decision not to seek re-election has set off a five-way race for his job. Candidates include band council members Nolan Charles, Wade Grant and Wayne Sparrow. The others are Gail Sparrow and Chrystal Sparrow.
All five candidates are related, with Gail Sparrow the most high profile of the bunch, having served as chief for a term in the late 1990s.
Sparrow was also the Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant in the 2001 provincial election, losing to NDP MLA Jenny Kwan. In 2002, she unsuccessfully sought an NPA nomination for city council.
Grant is the band's economic development administration coordinator, a member of the Vancouver Police Board and son of former three-term Musqueam chief Wendy Grant-John.
Wayne Sparrow has been involved in the band's fishing and housing issues. Charles once led a campaign to get a casino built on the band's land near the Vancouver International Airport and Chrystal Sparrow is a young artist.
A total of 48 people are running for the 10 council seats. Under the Department of Indian Affairs' electoral system, candidates running for chief can also be elected to a council seat. Terms are two years.
Campbell was elected chief in December 1998 and began serving his community in 1999. He was leader during several high-profile events, including the band's recent land dispute with a private landowner in Marpole.
The controversy arose after archaeologists discovered intact human remains of two adults and two infants on the Southwest Marine Drive land slated for a condominium development.
The Musqueam believe the remains are those of their ancestors, since the area is a well-documented heritage site and former band village.
"It would be a catastrophe to the Musqueam and to all British Columbians and Canadians to have this important, world-class site further destroyed," Campbell said in an April 18 letter to Premier Christy Clark and Mayor Gregor Robertson.
The provincial government has since cancelled the development permits. The band wants to purchase the land and turn it into an interpretive park. Landowners Gary and Fran Hackett and developer Century Group HQ Developments Ltd. have yet to work out a deal with the Musqueam.
Campbell was at the helm in 2008 when the B.C. government finalized a landmark deal with Musqueam involving the transfer of a number of small parcels of land back to the band.
The parcels included the UBC Golf Course lands, property near Sea Island Way in Richmond and two parcels of land from Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
As part of the agreement, the golf course must remain a golf course until 2083, and parts of the course and the park will be made park land.
The deal also included $20.3 million the province was to pay the band. In return, the Musqueam agreed to drop three outstanding lawsuits.
The Musqueam's reserve is located in the southwest corner of the city and runs to the Fraser River. It is semi-self governed with an agreement with the City of Vancouver to provide services such as garbage pickup and policing.